Change can sometimes be elusive. Humans are not simple creatures, and we can alternate between periods of improvement in our key goals, and falling backwards. But when therapy is working, you should quickly see a lessening of the main problem that brought you into therapy.
How quickly? Outcome studies show that when therapy is successful, improvement usually begins within the first 3-4 weeks. Don’t accept the “wisdom” that “things have to get worse before they can get better”—because they don’t. You won’t see change happen overnight, but you can make a gradual and definite improvement in your emotional life, or the life of your family.
Imagine feeling an overall improvement in your well-being, becoming better able to cope with stress and adversity, and feeling more comfortable within yourself and with others. This is what therapy can do. But how can you be sure this improvement is real and lasting within the normal and expected ups and downs of daily life?
Using simple measurement tools week to week provides a good indicator of success.
For example, at Help Your Way, we use the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) to help you and your therapist to be sure the treatment is working. Your counselor asks you to rate yourself (or your child) and discuss the results with you each week. Within the first 3-4 weeks, you should see improvement in the problem or area of concern that brought you into treatment. If improvement does not happen, we discuss with you how to change our methods so that you will get the results you want. Sometimes we may suggest changing to a different therapist or program.
If you think about it, it just makes sense. in the business world we always hear that “What gets measured is what gets done.” Therapy is no different.
The only judge of how treatment is working is you, the customer. There are no laboratory tests to measure mental health or mental illness. Ultimately, the only measure that matters is your satisfaction that you have achieved the results you are looking for. Incorporating some simple outcome measurement tools into therapy has been shown to significantly increase your success.
Kathy Levenston, LCSW, is the Director of Help Your Way. She is also a certified training with the International Center for Clinical Excellence.